At times it can be overwhelming to consider the state of our planet and the barriers to sustainable change. As easy as it is to allow this feeling to swallow you up, it’s essential to let go and focus on the positive in our society: the agents and ideas set in motion that are doing a significant amount of good! The sustainability landscape is truly changing, and in celebration of the month of gratitude, here are some highlights from over the past decade from two influential pillars of this movement: kind eating and green business.
Since the dawn of the new millennium, we’ve witnessed the rise of clean eating and consumer consciousness. Consider, before 2001: Without the International Treaty of Plant Genetic resources, biotech patents on plant genes had gone on with minimal oversight, leaving farmers sometimes unable to save, trade and sell their own seeds! At this point, plant-based eating was seen as an often-marginalized cultural niche. Since then, The China Study has become a critically acclaimed bestseller altering the lifestyles of hundreds of thousands; the First Lady has crafted an initiative to change school lunch programs and brought back the White House vegetable garden; Bill Clinton, Al Gore and the United Nations have advocated veganism; and, this very year, Vermont past the nation’s first “No Strings Attached Food Labeling Bill.”
In Green Business we see a proportional trend accentuating that this isn’t simply a cultural fad, but a serious proposition that can be taken up by corporations not only to gain good publicity, but also to demonstrate genuine concern. Going green is good for the environment, and it’s often more cost efficient than the toxic alternative. We see this perspective in the writings of Paul Hawken and Janine Benyus, and also in the campaigns of Patagonia, Virgin Airlines, Ceres and Accenture. (Just check out the links below for more info!) In addition to campaigns and research shifting various industries’ status quo (both economically and environmentally), technologies such as plug-in and hybrid vehicles have significantly advanced the automotive business. On a mission to reduce fuel consumption and greenhouse gases, the Toyota Prius has greatly assisted in leading the way to shift vehicle standards. This progress is acknowledged with the Prius being the number one best-selling vehicle in the state of California during 2013!
This cultural shift has happened in just the past 15 years and is still growing. What will you do to continue our path into a sustainable future? What do you want to see from the people and organizations around you? It is these concerns and reflections that affect us and will continue this amazing trend toward a sustainable planet.
Timeline of Change:
2001 116 countries vote for a new International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources, which gives farmers the right to save, trade and sell seeds, and limits biotech patents on plant genes.
2005 The China Study by T. Collin Campbell comes out: “[These] findings from the most comprehensive large study ever undertaken of the relationship between diet and the risk of developing disease are challenging much of American dietary dogma.” —The New York Times
2006 Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan: another tour de force book contributes to an awakening of the thought behind the plate.
2009 Michelle Obama takes on the White House veggie garden for the first time since Eleanor Roosevelt during WWII. Mrs. Obama’s motivation (apart from providing fresh produce for herself and the family) is to educate children about healthy, locally grown vegetables and fruit.
2011 Bill Clinton goes vegan. A former Big Mac lover faces serious heart issues, leading to triple bypass surgery. After talking to doctors like Dr. Dean Ornish and doing significant research, he decides to give it a try. He loses over 24 pounds and reverses his heart disease.
2011 Oprah and her 378 staff carry out a one-week vegan challenge and collectively lose 444 pounds.
2011 Forks Over Knives. A compelling documentary makes the clear case for clean eating improving health and environment.
2013 Adventist Health Study-2. (First announced at the International Congress of Vegetarian Nutrition at Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, CA., February, 2013): Another major study finds people who eat a plant-based diet live longer, are less likely to develop cancer and heart disease, weigh less, and have healthier diets.
2013 P.S. 244 NY public school adopt plant-based diet in cafeteria: attendance, test scores, and energy improve!
2013 Al Gore goes vegan.
1999 Natural Capitalism – Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins, Hunter Lovins
2002 Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature – Janine Benyus
2004 Patagonia’s Don’t Buy This Shirt Unless You Need It
2008 Virgin Atlantic’s first flight across the Atlantic on biofuels
2010 21st Century Corporation: The Ceres Roadmap to Sustainability. An excellent and groundbreaking foundation for corporations to navigate.
2010 Accenture global survey finds 93% found sustainability as important to their company’s future success.